Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House - a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems. On the surface, this new production appears quaint and undemanding. It uses painted flats, for example, pulled back and forth across, as in toy theatre. The scenes painted on them are vaguely generic, depicting neither Boston nor Stockholm, where the tale supposedly takes place. Instead, we focus on Verdi, and on theatre practices of the past. In other words, opera as the art of illusion, not an attempt to replicate reality. Take this production too literally and you'll miss the wit and intelligence behind it.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, Wigmore Hall

O Maria Deo grata — ‘O Mary, pleasing to God’: so begins Robert Fayrfax’s antiphon, one of several supplications to the Virgin Mary presented in this thought-provoking concert by The Cardinall’s Musick at the Wigmore Hall.

Analyzed not demonized — Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera House

Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Royal Opera House, first revival of the 2009 production, one of the first to attract widespread hostility even before the curtain rose on the first night.

Florencia in el Amazonas Makes Triumphant Return to LA

On November 22, 2014, Los Angeles Opera staged Francesca Zambello’s updated version of Florencia in el Amazonas.

John Adams: The Gospel According to the Other Mary

John Adams and his long-standing collaborator Peter Sellars have described The Gospel According to the Other Mary as a ‘Passion oratorio’.

A new Yevgeny Onegin in Zagreb — Prince Gremin’s Fabulous Pool Party

Superb conducting from veteran Croatian maestro Nikša Bareza makes up for an absurd waterlogged new production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece.

Nabucco in Novi Sad

After the horrors of Jagoš Marković’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro in Belgrade, I was apprehensive lest Nabucco in Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad on 27th October would be transplanted from 6th century BC Babylon to post-Saddam Hussein Tikrit or some bombed-out kibbutz in Beersheba.

La Bohème in San Francisco

First Toronto, then Houston and now San Francisco, the third stop of a new production of Puccini's La bohème by Canadian born, British nurtured theater director John Caird.

Radvanovsky Sings Recital in Los Angeles

Every once in a while Los Angeles Opera presents an important recital in the three thousand seat Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L’elisir d’amore, Royal Opera

This third revival of Laurent Pelly’s production of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore needed a bit of a pep up to get moving but once it had been given a shot of ‘medicinal’ tincture things spiced up nicely.

Samling Showcase, Wigmore Hall

Founded in 1996, Samling describes itself as a charity which ‘inspires musical excellence in young people’.

La cenerentola in San Francisco

The good news is that you don’t have to go all the way to Pesaro for great Rossini.

Rameau: Maître à danser — William Christie, Barbican London

Maître à danser: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants at the Barbican, London, presented a defining moment in Rameau performance practice, choreographed with a team of dancers.

Le Nozze di Figaro — or Sex on the Beach?

The most memorable thing (and definitely not in a good way) about this performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Serbian National Theatre in Belgrade was the self-serving, infantile, offensive and just plain wrong production by celebrated Serbian theatre director Jagoš Marković.

The Met mounts a well sung but dramatically unconvincing ‘Carmen’

Should looks matter when casting the role of the iconic temptress for HD simulcast?

Maurice Greene’s Jephtha

Maurice Greene (1696-1755) had a highly successful musical career. Organist of St. Paul’s Cathedral, a position to which he was elected when he was just 22 years-old, he later became organist of the Chapel Royal, Professor of Music at the University of Cambridge and, from 1735, Master of the King’s Music.

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Susan Neves (in red) as the First Chorus [Photo by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera]
05 Apr 2013

Murder in the Cathedral at San Diego Opera

Italian composer Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) wrote more than fifteen operas, of which almost none are staged today.

Murder in the Cathedral at San Diego Opera

A review by Maria Nockin

Above: Susan Neves (in red) as the First Chorus

Photos by Ken Howard courtesy of San Diego Opera

 

A member of the same generation as Ottorino Respighi and Gian Francesco Malipiero, he started out to be a playwright and had two works staged before he entered the conservatory of his native Parma to study music. Some years later, Pizzetti was a conservatory teacher and administrator, first in Florence and then in Milan. In 1936 he succeeded Respighi at the Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome where his students included Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Pizzetti was influenced by poet and playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio and he wrote incidental music for several of the latter’s plays. In 1939 Pizzetti was named to the Italian Royal Academy. Although his relations with the fascist government of Italy were occasionally stormy, they were often positive, and that may be one reason why his works have seldom been produced since then.

He composed his first opera, Sabina, in 1897. Between then and the premiere of Murder in the Cathedral (Assassinio nella Cattedrale) on March 1, 1958, he completed eleven others. Murder in the Cathedral is two-act opera with a libretto by the composer based on Alberto Castelli’s Italian translation of T.S. Eliot's play of the same name. It deals with the killing of Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket by followers of King Henry II in the twelfth century. Henry is supposed to have asked if no one would rid him of the troublesome priest. That may have been all that was necessary for his followers to assume they had reason to murder Becket.

On April 2, 2013, San Diego Opera staged Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral with leading Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role. General and Artistic Director Ian D. Campbell staged the work in a straightforward manner that made the story easy to grasp. Ralph Funicello’s unit set, consisting of bright colored stained glass windows with steps and platforms, looked like the inside of a great cathedral. Lighting was a large part of the décor and Alan Burrett’s designs were most effective. Costume designer Denitza Bliznakova dressed the Archbishop in the timeless robes of the Catholic Church, the First and Second Chorus soloists in crimson, and the remaining choristers in the muted colors of twelfth century England.

MIC_0026a.pngSusan Neves (in red) as the First Chorus

The story of this opera, the conflict between Church and state, seems to have gone on forever. I was reminded of the murder of Martin Luther King so many centuries later. Like Becket, King knew that it could happen. Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto excels in the interpretation of roles on both sides of this conflict: Philip II in Don Carlo and Becket. Murder in the Cathedral is a thinking person’s opera. Furlanetto is in the prime of his career and his opulent voice flowed over the orchestra and into the auditorium like a magnificent force of nature. This is an opera he was born to sing. He is also a fine actor and when he was on stage you could not take your eyes off him.

Susan Neves and Helene Schneiderman sang the First and Second Chorus who commented on action. Since there was no love interest, their parts were much smaller than that of the Archbishop, but both sang with ringing tones. The other star of this performance was the San Diego Opera Chorus led by Charles F. Prestinari. Their harmonies were strong and they coalesced as a group. They really did not get to act as individuals because they were a unified congregation. For the finale they were joined by the excellent Children’s Chorus fro St. Paul’s Cathedral.

MIC_0739a.pngHelene Schneiderman as the Second Chorus with Susan Neves as the First Chorus in the background

Alan Glassman was the trumpet voiced Herald who announced each arrival. His presence in the part was true luxury casting. The other roles were actually parts of trios or quartets. The three priests who sang with dramatics tones as they tried to protect their Archbishop were tenor Greg Fedderly, bass-baritone Kristopher Irmiter, and bass Gregory Reinhart. The four tempters were also the four knights who eventually killed Becket. Tenor Joel Sorenson had a high lying difficult part but acquitted it with finesse. Baritone Malcolm MacKenzie, the smooth voiced Count Di Luna of the AZ Opera Il Trovatore, was a dramatic Second Knight, while bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam and bass Kevin Langan, the sonorous Third and Fourth Knights, were properly villainous thugs.

Conductor Donato Renetti made a very auspicious San Diego Opera debut with this performance. The large orchestra responded with precise playing of this new and interestingly orchestrated score. I hope we will hear a great deal more from Renzetti.

Special kudos go to English Hornist Andrea Overturf for his beautiful phrasing. This was a spectacular evening at San Diego Opera and I hope this fine opera will be heard more often from now on.

Maria Nockin


Click here for cast and production information.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):